Obama accuses Trump White House of suppressing black voters in rare direct attack

‘Folks are working to keep people from voting, especially communities of colour,’ says former president

James Crump
Tuesday 29 September 2020 22:24
Obama accuses White House of supressing black voters in new campaign video
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Former US president Barack Obama has accused the White House of suppressing black voters in a new campaign video for Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.

In the video, which has been shared with PBS before its release on The Shade Room, Mr Obama urges the US public to vote as early as possible for Mr Biden.

“As you know, the election is coming up, and I’ve got just one word for you: vote,” the former president says. “Actually, I’ve got two: vote early.”

Without mentioning president Donald Trump by name, Mr Obama then adds: “Right now, from the White House on down, folks are working to keep people from voting, especially communities of colour.

“That’s because there’s a lot at stake in this election. Not just our pandemic response or racial justice, but our democracy itself.”

The campaign video was released a day after an investigation by Channel 4 News in the UK accused the president of seeking to deter more than 3.5 million black voters from heading to the polls in 2016’s presidential election.

His campaign has been accused of targeting African American voters in 16 battleground states with negative ads of Hillary Clinton, with the aim of deterring them from voting.

Jamal Watkins, vice president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), told Channel 4 that the organisation is troubled that there was allegedly an attempt to suppress black voters in 2016.

“So, we use data – similar to voter file data – but it’s to motivate, persuade and encourage folks to participate. We don’t use the data to say who can we deter and keep at home. That just seems, fundamentally, it’s a shift from the notion of democracy,” Mr Watkins said.Around two million black voters who voted for Mr Obama in 2012 did not do the same for Ms Clinton in 2016, after the Trump campaign allegedly put off black voters in state’s such as Wisconsin and Milwaukee. The Trump Campaign previously denied using any targeted campaigns on Facebook.

Voters have been casting their ballots early this year, as Mr Trump has repeatedly spoken publicly against people being able to vote by mail in this year’s presidential election and has claimed without evidence that it will cause a large increase in voting fraud.

The president has also refused to give the US Postal Service (USPS) more funding, despite it struggling during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and under the leadership of postmaster general Louis DeJoy.

A deal to help fund the USPS was struck in the house last month, but is unlikely to make it through the Senate, as Republicam majority leader Mitch McConnell has said he will not accept a standalone bill for the service. President Trump has also threatened to veto it.

During an interview with Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo last month, Mr Trump said that the Democrats need the USPS funding “in order to make the post office work, so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots.

“But if they don't get those two items, that means you can't have universal mail-in voting, because they're not equipped to have it. They don't have the money to do the universal mail-in voting. So therefore, they can't do it, I guess.”

Democratic officials have urged US citizens to vote as soon as they can, in order to make sure their vote is counted for 3 November’s presidential election.

The Biden campaign also released a video of Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris on Tuesday, where she urges voters to cast their ballots early.

Ms Harris says in the video: “We know it’s all on the line, everything from women’s health to our jobs, from Black businesses to the quality of our schools and our communities.”

She adds: “And of course, we must defeat Covid-19 and confront racism and injustice in our country.”

Speaking to PBS about the new campaign videos, Kamau Marshall, the campaign’s director of strategic communications, said: “Our campaign is focused on meeting voters where they are, outlining Joe Biden and Kamala Harris’ plan to build back better, and encouraging them to vote,”

He added that the aim is for them to “reach a critical audience of black voters that we’re hoping to turn out this fall.”

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